Sunday, August 29, 2010

Prion 13 Part two

Part 2 Luis
How far would you go to cover up a major mistake? And that’s what this obviously was, a major bloody mistake. Someone had relocated samples of a experimental prion and slowly the steps were set in motion for the apocalypse that mankind now faced. But would those in the know make the necessary arrangements to cover up what they’d done, and more importantly was Simon involved? A cover up would be required, to ensure that Saar Biosciences didn’t have to answer to anyone in the bright new dawn of the post apocalyptic world, assuming we survived of course.

How far would I go to cover up a mistake? That thought rumbled backwards and forwards in my mind as I left the little celebration. Simon seemed quite taken by the British girl and it seemed bad even for me to try and interfere, besides I had my suspicions about Simon as well.

What bothered me most was the determination on managements part about a causal link having now been found. That, and the sudden departure of Cecily’s French lab colleagues.

I hurried down to our lab passing some of the internal security troops. It was only as I got to the lab that I realised that a disproportionate amount of them seemed to be out and about compared with normal. They were from a Private Military Company called Raven Force. It had gained a pretty nasty reputation in the Mid-east and Africa but got the job done, and of course they were loyal to whoever hired them first. So I suppose Saar trusted them more than the Swiss troops outside.

Sealing the lab door behind me, I logged onto Simons machine. I’d ‘borrowed’ his codes a few months ago, a habit that had got me into trouble before, but also had given me a head start when my wife had found out about Margaritte.

The screen went live and I quickly flicked through what Simon had been looking at. It was the penultimate item that flash froze my blood. A research project using a prion similar to the one just isolated. Only this one was designed to promise longevity, the irony was delicious, the question was who else knew of this programme. Little scenes from the party flickered through my mind and more suspicions fell into place.

I moved quickly over to my desk and unlocked the bottom drawer. I removed my service automatic, a holster and some spare magazines. I also added a high capacity flash drive. Fixing the holster and magazine pouch in place on my belft (and under my labcoat), I felt a bit more comfortable. Next I took the flash drive over to Simons machine, downloaded the old project file and also the work we had down. Once finished, the drive went into my trouser pocket. My main conundrum was now what to do next.

Technically this was a military project so my best bet was to speak to the Swiss garrison commander. I couldn’t trust the internal security troops as they were under the control of management. That meant getting out into the valley pdq. The missing Frenchmen were also an issue. A quick sweep for them 9or more likely their corpses), then out to the garrison buildings was the best plan.

My mind made out I headed out of the lab

Twenty minutes later I was down on one of the lower levels near to the only access to the ‘Store’ that we had within the base. No-one really worked down here, but I was carrying a clipboard with some papers on it, so that I looked official. To be honest I’d never come down here before and so it took me a while to navigate through the service corridors. So far only two internal security guards had passed me and they didn’t give me a second glance. So therefore it was by complete accident that I stumbled on an entrance to a small lab complex. It looked like it was a clone of my lab, and walking towards me flanked by two of the interior security troops was Helmut Klein.

‘Ah Luis, just the man!’ he said with a broad smile on his face. Klein is the sort of man you instinctively distrust, a sort of uber-Nixon if you like.
“Listen Luis, I’m a bit worried about Simon. Has he seemed any different to you?’
Klein was now right in front of me
“Anyway” he continued “Now that we’ve sourced the prion we need to start re-organising the teams, can you spare a few minutes?”
‘Of course Herr Docktor” I replied and fell into step with him and his goons. Something was very wrong, I could almost taste it. His prattling management speak made the 15 minutes journey to his office seem an eternity.
A further half an hour was wasted on him talking about removing me from working with Simon, the reward was for me to work on a high profile bio-warfare project now that we had the cause of the plague.

The very idea of this did finally freeze me to the core, did this man realize what he was saying? I know people think I have few scruples..mainly due to mistakes I have made over women. But biowarfare? Before the emergency there were still ‘zones’ in Russia that could not be entered due to biowarfare experiments during the soviet era.
Nevertheless I nodded like fool and made encouraging noises where I guessed they were needed. This meant though that by being attentive I lost another hour, but then he threw what the Americans call a curve ball.
“Look Luis I know you’re not stupid. We managed to find out about the prion due to a rather serious accident, our two French colleagues were infected during the week. Now it looks a bit suspicious so keep an eye on young Cecily, won’t you?”
“Of course Herr Docktor”
“Excellent well it’s quite late I’ll let you get on”
Gathering I was dismissed I promptly left his office.


Time was running out, so I head back the way I came. Leaving Klein’s office I felt even more uneasy, you just don’t admit this sort of thing to someone not in your little clique and definitely not to someone like me. I felt an itch between my shoulder blades and decided that there wasn’t the time to go back down to that strange lab, especially as I now basically knew what I might find. That basically left the Swiss army based outside, and to reach them I needed access via the security suite as the exits were sealed at night.

So I needed to go back down to level three. Sighing at all this wasted time, I headed back to the lifts. It took a while for one to appear and the whole time I couldn’t shake this feeling of being watched and of impending doom.

How I was going to worm my way into the security suite was a problem, and I was running out of ideas when I reached the entrance. Only to find it was pretty academic, one of the internal security men was slumped in the doorway having leaked copious amounts of blood onto the floor. The corpse was fortunately keeping the security door from closing, although the doors pressure on the corpse had probably contributed to the amount of blood on the floor. I noticed foot prints leaving the scene as the culprits had seemingly managed to avoid the blood on the way in. Gingerly I used the body as a footbridge and entered the sanctorum of the facility.

Even to someone as life-jaded as I, the suite surprised me. It was clear that almost everywhere in the facility was wired for vision, and it would seem sound. Three large LCD screens took up most of one wall, all with little PiP screens showing multitudes of rooms and their occupants. The scenes I saw explained I think, part of the disdain which many of the internal security troops seemed to treat us with. None of us had any secrets, although some things were probably overlooked due to the sheer volume of feed traffic!

The rest of the room was set up with little work modules and more traditional flat screen LCD monitors (albeit large ones). These work stations had not been unoccupied when they had had their unwelcome visitors. I could see four slumped figures, two with head phones still on and so they probably didn’t know what had hit them.

Scanning all the images I finally found what I was looking for, scenes from the lowest level, the ‘Store’. What I saw was less than good, someone had released the specimens and they were wandering around. Containment came immediately to mind but then I saw that someone had opened up the main doors from the store to the lower levels of the complex.

Snarling and biting back a few choice words I rushed into the control room. Here, there were only three, 21 inch LCD screens for the three supervisors. Only one was supervisor was present, and someone had emptied what looked to be a full magazine into her torso, the force of which had smashed her against a gun rack. Ignoring the body I tried to access the system only to find it locked but not sealed. Someone had programmed the lifts to start moving up and down the shafts automatically and to stay in an open position at the storeroom level for a few minutes…more than enough time to snaffle up a few unsuspecting zombies and transport them to other levels. This meant thatthis ‘someone’ was deliberately trying to kills us all. So engrossed was I in what I could see, that I was oblivious to another’s presence.
“Not too smart really are you?” said a rough voice.
Startled I stood up unsteadily, only to thrown backwards by some well aimed hammer blows to my torso, and the world went black….


I came around feeling slightly euphoic which I believed was due to me bleeding to death, and to be honest I felt wet all over, but then the pain started to leak though, in sharp busts every time I took a breath. So no nice quick death for me then. Patricia would be most happy! A few more minutes and I finally snapped out of my little death fantasy and my wife’s vicious wishes.

“…I hope you stick yourself with one of your own syringes, you bastard! How could you? She’s only a girl” yes a girl of 22 who knew exactly what she wanted, and it wasn’t like I was her first or even fourth..

Anyway back to my current situation, I was covered in blood but mainly from the corpse I’d landed on, that is except for my screwed up coup de grace, which had tracked across my forehead and was bleeding copiously. Slowly I got to my feet feeling for my wounds, that was the next surprise my assassin’s first shots had been very well placed…unfortunately both rounds had hit one of the spare magazines for my service automatic mangling it nicely and by driving the metal box fiercely into my ribs, breaking at least one.

Not wanting to pass judgement on the young lady I had just been lying on top of, I needed to get cleaned up quickly. Luckily I knew that the security centre had its own bathroom so I utilised it quickly after first removing the corpse blocking the security door. Luckily there was a manual door lock which I also engaged and proceeded to clean myself up and change into some spare fatigues that fitted me (well almost).

I knew that time was running out, as I could see what how our specimens were progressing through the facility on the monitors, so it was time to get the hell out of Tijuana. Being in the security suite helped me as well, because it held a small arsenal of military grade weapons that were not well secured. Well only authorised people would be in this room so why bother?

I chose a carbine version of the H&K G36 mainly because in the Spanish Army we used a version of it, although this one was well accessorised. Scavenging some spare magazines I decided it was time to get Simon (and his new girlfriend… if he insisted). Finally I checked the main door status and found it had been opened. No doubt by the perpetrators of this little massacre, but as they had left me little in the way of computer access their kindness would not be dismissed lightly when the time came.

My watch showed that it was nearly one o’clock in the morning and on monitors that the guests from steerage were now making their presence felt with the upper classes. So it was time to move along. Unlocking the door to the suite I checked the hallway on the monitors before slipping away to Simon’s room which was also on this floor. As I reached it a few minutes later I could hear some loud noises (made indistinct by the sound proofing) which tapered off. For once I felt uncomfortable about just barging in. But Simon’s sensitivities had to take second place to the current emergency.


I used a pilfered security card to open the door (pilfered I have to say many months ago, yet again one of my many sins), the lights were out so to minimise time I said “Simon? Its Luis” and activated the flashlight attached to the G36. The high power beam of light transfixed a scene out of an abattoir. There seemed to be blood everywhere and two blood covered figures seemed to writhe on the bed. Only one head turn toward me though, and I was stunned for a moment to look into Simons vacant but still seeing eyes
“Simon?” I asked again like an imbecile, I knew what had happened but my brain just would not connect the dots

It was only after the creature that was Simon uttered a mindless moan that my fingers did the talking, flicking the fire selector to single shot and depressing the trigger three times…each bullet impacting the creatures skull, distributing brain matter amongst the other gore. I then noticed that the other gore covered figure (that I took to be Cecily) was starting to twitch. My analytical consciousness noted this as an acceleration of normal infection times before I almost subconsciously shot her in the skull. Twice.

Escape was my only thought now, as revenge or at least solving this melange of threads had to take second or even third place. One thought struck me though who? Then I remembered the retreating foot prints highlighted in bright arterial blood, two sets of military style boots the third set brogues. My mind did another forward somersault and I thought about Klein and his two little sturmtroopers, but why? Then all the pieces fell into place. Klein was part of Saar’s old guard, he had no interest in the Saar Biosciences being tarred as the ultimate source of the prion. Now that the strain had been isolated, and a possible ‘cure’ or ‘vaccine’ could be worked on. He’d be first against the wall cure or no cure, so he probably had all the data or had deleted it and decided to flee the nest, letting our ‘samples’ do the dirty work. He may even have thought he could come back as the conquering hero after no doubt erasing certain security video files or setting up his little helpers as patsies.

Unfortunately I knew something that he would not have been privy to. Only the senior officers outside were meant to know, but as I accompanied the package from the USA I was also aware. In an alcove just off the main lift shaft was a W-88 nuclear warhead. The idea was that if containment failed the whole lab was to be ‘sterilized’. No pansy French-style neutron bomb event this. Just proper, cleansing thermonuclear fire. It had been determined that because of the levels of research being carried out at the facility, a more virulent strain of whatever caused the outbreak might be discovered and there was no way it could be released on an already struggling world. The timer would already be ticking away. I seemed to remember a time limit of about 6 hours in order to arrange proper triage and evacuation. Unfortunately this left less than 2 hours for me to get the hell out…..and to minimum safe distance.

Now the issue was how to get up to level one with minimal risk, I decided it would have to be up the stairs. There were four stairwells running on each floor but only the two inner ones ran from top to bottom, the outer two connected only the top three floors so I carefully made my way to the far right hand stairwell. Every nerve was tense as I listened out for the traditional staggered footfall of the walking dead but just before I reached my goal I found a trail of blood leading to the stairwell and the door was half open.

This was clearly Klein’s work as well. The stairwell doors had three settings: lockdown, free or semi secured. The first option was obvious, the last one meant that a swipe was needed to open the doors and they would seal shut after use. Free meant that the doors would not close shut, (a maintenance setting mainly). By doing this Klein had given our stumbling friends another set of routes through the complex.

The door had opened into the stairwell landing, so blocking my view into the landing. however I could tell that the trail went up. Stepping carefully around the blood trail I entered the stairwell, looking both up and down and listening for any sounds. Faintly echoing down the stairwell came the sound of moaning. Carefully and quietly I made my way up the stairs, trying to make a minimal amount of noise. Two flights up I could make out a huddled form, taking no chances I raised the carbine to my shoulder and slowly made my way forward.


“Luis?” the voice was faint almost barely audible as the bloodstained figure raised it’s head. It was only then I recognised Rachel although this sorry figure did not seem like the tall, athletic blonde that I had got to know when I first came to the facility.
“Luis help me, I’m hurt” her plea was stronger but then I noticed a tremor hit her body. “Luisssss”, her eyes changed then from being hurt and sentient to being mindless.

Luckily at that range I couldn’t miss and the carbine discharged three rounds into her..its? skull ending the problem before it could begin.

The sound of the shots echoed up the stairwell and I just hoped that they would produce no unwelcome surprises. Gingerly I bypassed Rachel’s corpse and headed up the stairs. Now each floor was separated by 50 meters so it was not a short climb. I kept to the outside of the stairwell, so giving me plenty of opportunity to see what was coming my way. I had no interest to find out what was going on, on the 2nd floor and so kept well away from the doorway as I passed it.

Reaching the 1st floor I found there were few signs of life although just as I entered the hallway I could see two zombies having a problem leaving the lift. Being the public spirited sort of person I am I moved forward and shot both of them in the face.

Fortunately their bodies then blocked the doors of the lift so preventing any more coming up that way

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a voice shrieked from behind me.

Tense as I was, I spun round and came face to face with one of Klein’s little administrators. He obviously wasn’t fully awake and took a few seconds to realise that he was staring down the barrel of a gun from a distance of about 20 cms!

“Where’s Klein?” I barked
“How would I know? Do you know what time it is, why are you shooting people?” The worm definitely had some backbone I had to give him that.
“The store’s containment is breached” I replied cordially pushing past him, “could be a good time to run and hide!”


A thought then struck me and I headed to the refectory to see who was there.

I opened the doors to find the place in uproar with a good sized crowd of researchers plus other staff haranguing Klein and his two bodyguards, the latter three were closest to the doors and had their backs to me. The main gist of the argument was that everyone wanted to know why the supposedly secured zombies were now loose and causing havoc amongst those who were meant to be researching them. The indignation of the volte face amongst the scientists gave me a few moments humour.

“…everything will be fine, we just need everyone to go back to their rooms. Then we can bring in the troops from outside to clear the levels and we can resecure the storage area” Klein was saying having to raise his voice above the rising tide of discontentment.

It was clear that his platitudes were not working.

I was able to approach the group without being noticed and was only a couple of meters away when someone said
“Look there’s Luis, and he, he has a gun!”
Klein’s men may have been mercenaries but they still knew there job and both started to move. Unfortunately for them it was simply a time and distance calculation. I was in a position to shoot, they had to move to get a shot at me. I had switched the carbine to a 3 round burst and took the one to the left first, and then tracked across to the one on the right resisting the temptation to place a few bullets in Klein back as I tracked the carbines barrel across his torso.

Both bodyguards were wearing some body armour but at that range it was pretty much useless, all the armour achieved was causing the bullets to shed their copper jackets quicker and fragmenting the rounds within both men’s bodies. I suppose in hindsight that did stop any of my co-workers getting hurt. That just left Klein now shaking and slowly turning around
“Luis” he began “Look I can explain..”
“I’m sure you can” I replied cutting him off as I couldn’t be bothered to listen to any drivel and shouldered the carbine
“..No you don’t understand!”
“Oh you are mistaken Herr Klein” I replied “I feel I completely understand what you have done and why” I drew out my service automatic and calmly shot him in both kneecaps.

His screams of pain were quite painful to hear and Max Cousins a microbiologist from Britain actually stepped forward to help only to take a step back when I waved the pistol in his direction.

“Dr Sanchez, what do you think you’re doing?”
I looked at him as if he was an idiot
“Righting a few wrongs, what does it look like? People are dying as we speak and this piece of filth is the cause. All because he’s worried about his share options or something like it.”

I grabbed Klein by his collar and started to drag him away, his wails became more pitiful. Funnily enough though no-one tried to stop me…

Klein was squealing by the time I had dragged him to one of the main stairwells, leaving two thin trails of blood behind him. As we approached the door I released Klein and taking careful hold of the carbine kicked the door inwards where it stayed. No-one was waiting behind it fortunately, and I had a quick look down the well. Down near level three I could just make out a couple of shambling figures slowly making their way up.
Turing back to where I had left Klein I found he had found the courage to try and crawl away, albeit only a couple of meters.

“Naughty, naughty! My friend, I think there are some acquaintances of your coming up the stairs who might want a chat. Shall we?” I swept my arm invitingly towards the open doorway. Klein shrank away. But to no avail as I again grabbed his collar and dragged him toward what was possibly a modern version of the gates to hell.

I was quite oblivious to any of Klein’s discomfort, plea’s or cries. All I could do was remember what he and his co-workers had done and what they were prepared to do to cover that up. I decided to leave him two flights down, still less than halfway to level two. Taking my service automatic out, I waved it in front of his face to gain his attention.

“Looks like you’ll have some company soon Klein, and by rights I should just let them have their wicked way with you. However I’m not that evil, I afraid.” I racked back the slide and let the bullet tumble into the void, I then ejected the magazine and calmly started to removed round after round until only one was left. I could hear the falling rounds clinking as they hit the stairwell occasionally. Slinding the magazine back into the pistol I depressed the slide stop and removed the safety.

I then walked down to the next landing and placed the pistol in the middle, in plain sight and then returned to Klein.
“There you go, I’m giving you the honourable way out. It will mean a bit more pain and you might not make it in time, but then the thought of being eaten alive might speed you up.” I looked down at Klein’s bloodstained, crippled body
“Time for me to go I suppose, I won’t say it was a pleasure, as it wasn’t. Goodbye Klein I hope they’ve saved a pretty horrible place in hell for you” so saying I walked back up the level one.


Exiting the stairwell I felt much better and started walking to the exit. Now as the research facility was not some military grade defence bunker. There was also a fairly normal office building above ground where all the admin work was done. The subterranean part of the facility was reached by an escalator, which descended from the buildings central hall which in itself was a three storey atrium with a mini rainforest. As the escalator entered the subterranean level of the facility there was a security area which had a double security barrier system, firstly a metal barrier (similar to those used to secure shops) and then a Lexan security screen.

At night most of the lights are either dimmed or switched off and the escalators are also turned off to minimise electricity consumption. So in the semi-darkness I was using the tac-light attached to the handguard of the carbine to properly see my way. The problem with such a light was though that it was both bright but directional so I had very little sense of peripheral vision and no night vision at all.

And so I never saw the red tracery of the aiming laser. Thus completely surprising me when the taser barbs hit me. Then I fell twitching to the floor…

As I lay on the floor I could sense the seconds ticking away and my thoughts went down a few floors to the idiot cone which contained 475 kilotonnes of nuclear fire. A bright light shone on my face and I thought “well this is it” and a familiar voice said “funny I thought I’d killed you”

My assailant then half dragged, half carried me to a small café area and hand cuffed me to one of the stone benches

“Is this really necessary? If you going to shoot me?” I asked as the effects of the taser started to wear off.
“Oh I’m not going to shoot you, no need to. You’ll probably get some company coming in the next hour or so. I made sure all the lifts were running again after you fixed them”

I must admit to having been a bit confused by this statement as I only blocked one of the lifts but I let him prattle on.
“lso you seem to be bulletproof so why take the chance?”
My patience then hit a low
“Who are you?”
“No one of any importance, I work for Saar and arrived earlier on today”
“What are you here for”
“Isn’t it obvious? Cleaning the mistakes of others.”
The taser effects were now almost fully gone which is why I jumped half a kilometre when a set of claws latched on each of my shoulders.
“ello Luis”
“Got any treats? Nice Luis”
It was one of the mated pairs of parrots that live in the atrium, these were African Greys and I would sneak them treats when I could, one of them nibbled at my ear whilst the other one decided to regale us with his version of ‘Waltzing Mathilda’.

My assailant laughed

“Well at least you won’t die by yourself like Klein. That was a nasty way to go”
“Are you expecting me to be remorseful?” I asked
“No, he was an ass and incompetent as well, and well it’s time to be off”
He started to move away as the other parrot decided to join in so I had two loud parrots singing right next to my ears.

“Just piss off why don’t you” I shouted at them, both leapt into the area and hovered there laughing.

“You’re a bad man Luis” said one of them exactly in the same voice as Kristina one of the PA’s who I’d had a quick fling with a month or so ago.

“Everyone’s a critic, eh?” said my assailant. I noticed that he was limping
“Have you been bitten?” I asked nervously
“Oh a couple did get too close, but this outfit is Kevlar lined, I tripped earlier on thanks for your concern!”
I could see a slight gash in the half light and realised he had not realised what had happened, the parrots flew away suddenly, and I took my chance.
“You’re wrong you’ve cut you leg, and you’ve not got too long”
“What or I’ll become a zombie?” he had stopped and was using a torch to check his leg.

“No in an hour or so this will be a wasteland, Klein and your’s actions have set off a timer on a nuclear demolition charge, it’ll go off soon and we’ll all be dead.”

He had turned back towards me, and looked at me as if he was trying to figure out if I was telling him the truth or not. This new twist would have not been good news to his superiors, as a plague of zombies could be got rid of, a pile of radioactive ash however was a definite loss on the balance sheet.

“Oh and I suppose you know the code eh?” he asked in a half joking voice
“No..” I began just as at least three assault rifles opened up on the mystery man “..but I needed you to look at me” I finished off in a small voice as a number of fire teams of the Swiss Army troops filtered into the area. One quickly cut the riot cuffs that were securing me and I was rubbing my wrists when Colonel Marius Von Beck the troops commander arrived.

“Well Major Sanchez making friends and influencing people again I see!”
I liked Colonel Von Beck but sometimes his sense of humour grated; I suppose this was as it was very similar to me own.
“Enough of that Marius, what about the ‘you know what’” I pointed down

He looked puzzled for a moment and then he laughed

“Sorry I wished I could have let this run for a while longer, the ‘you know whats’ timer has been reset. But I suppose things are not good down there?”

“Not as all, Director Klein deliberately breached containment; it looks like we had just discovered a link between the cause of the condition and some research done here a few years ago. I don’t know how many of the research staff have been infected.”
“Well don’t worry about that” he replied “let’s get you cleaned up and then you can be debriefed.” He glanced over to the escalator where one solitary figure was shambling upward “looks like my boys have got their work cut out for them tonight.”
He started to bark out orders, just as one of his fire teams opened fire on the ascending zombie. A Medic led me out towards a waiting jeep to take me to the army’s encampment.

There they saw to my fairly minor wounds and gave me a tranquilizer. When I woke up later I found to my disgust that it had not been all a dream.


Well what happened next? I spent three days being debriefed by various people as well as being prodded by doctors. The information I downloaded from the system was used to arrest a few people in Saar Biosciences (even at this stage there was a sense of need for justice, although I suppose any punishment will wait until the emergency is finally over). I was the hero of the hour as nearly 40% of the research staff in the end were infected and had to be disposed off...well actually that wasn’t quite the truth, we actually used them as guinea pigs, well needs must..

My reward? I was made head of research and the labs were fully taken over by the military because I had worked at USAMRID I ran it like Fort Dietrich. But in the end it needed to go back to civilian control I knew that but didn’t know if my superiors would allow it at least for the foreseeable future.

In the end we found there was no cure but we developed an airborne ‘vaccine’ that would stop the contaminated in their tracks without having to utilise explosives (either normal or the nuclear kind). A year later the emergency was ended and with a much emptied earth mankind planned it’s future anew. Would we learn from our mistakes? Somehow I doubt it….

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Prion 13 Part One

Part 1 Simon

On the large LCD screen hanging on the rear wall of the common-room, the world burned. A scene that was also played out on dozens of channels that we had access to. The smaller screens scattered around the room showed some of that choice.

As usual the main screen was fixed on CNN, (or as it had been re-christened, ZNN) the scene this afternoon was Soweto, or what was left of it. The filming was from a SADF Puma circling at around 500 meters. Oily black flames fanned in the afternoon winds burned both the living and the dead although it was clear from the footage that some of the ‘dead’ were still moving. The shacks that had held generations of black South Africans and sheltered them from the excesses of the Apartheid regime, were of little use from a foe that cared not for causes and just wanted you for lunch or dinner depending on what time of the day it was..although that was probably not too important to them either.

Luis dumped himself on the sofa next to me.
“God, haven’t you better things to do but watch this shit, Simon? Don’t be a sap like these jokers!” he waved his arms towards our co-workers some of whom no longer went back to sleep in their rooms and had set up camp in the common-room. Absently I sipped at my coffee and shook my head.
“It’s easy for you Luis, you had no-one outside, most of these people have family out there” I paused “also no one wants to be alone”
Luis had divorced his wife of five years in a particular bitter dispute in which both his and her family sided against him, something to do with three mistresses was the main complaint, especially when one of them was his wife’s sister. The case settled two days before the emergency started. I felt he was glad to rid of them all, and so had no reason to complain about our current situation.

Luis just laughed.
“Simon. Simon. In that case they should be hard at work in the labs trying to help stop this madness! Anyway I came to tell you the latest analysis of the samples brought from Lyons are in”

He got up, glancing at the screen which showed a flight of Cheetah fighter/bombers dropping cluster bombs on the township.

“Christ, I thought it was illegal to use those things in civilian areas!”

Because of his news I rose to the bait

“The UN emergency protocols removed both the cluster bomb ban and the landmine ban you know that..” realising that I had been duped again, as I followed Luis to the lift whilst he chuckled to himself.

Thinking about Lyons (another failed containment exercise, but at least we got fresh samples), brought to mind the French governments disastrous experiment with Paris. The President had declared that the city should be saved for heritage reasons, and so he had authorised the use of France’s neutron bomb arsenal (hitherto a mere rumour), to remove the problem of dead Frenchmen (and women) rising up and trying to eat their fellow countrymen. There would be minimal collateral damage and the decontamination could be sorted out fairly easily.

The result?

More dead French citizens (as the government couldn’t or wouldn’t evacuate the city before the strike) and it seemed the risen dead were not effected by the radiation, in fact in some cases it was rumoured that ‘Les Zombies’ in Paris were stronger and faster than those found elsewhere. Luis had joked that it would be easier for snipers to pick them off after dark!

Such thoughts led me to the start of all this barely six months ago…..

The first reported incident was in Egypt about two weeks after the end of Hajj in Saudi Arabia, a man and his two sons had just returned and became sick, they died within a day of their being admitted to hospital in Alexandria. They ‘rose’ about 12 hours later it is thought and the infection quickly spread through the crowded neighbourhoods and then it was just a short hop to Cairo and then the country basically collapsed.

This however was not an isolated incident, similar cases were reported in France, Britain, Holland, most of the Arab world, southern Asia and also in the USA. The sickness always happened amongst Muslims and by the time the various governments realised the link with the Hajj it was too late and things went from bad to worse. Pogroms started in many areas where Islamic communities were based and tens of thousands of innocents we slaughtered but also the contagion was spreading.

Most countries declared Martial Law and containment lines were set up. The UN set up a committee which formed a decision in record time, 24 hours. Worldwide emergency rules were drawn up aimed at containing the contagion. The problem was that it was not only transmitted when someone was bitten but also if they were exposed to any fluids from a walking corpse. Teams were set up in many countries to try and find a cure. One interesting fact was that Romero was right, massive damage to the brain stopped a Zombie in its tracks, decapitation did not always work however and I’d seen reports of a Zombie head still trying to bite someone’s ankles and a headless body still attacking a person even though its head lay a few meters away!

International trade and air travel stopped dead (if you’ll pardon the pun), only tightly screened military flights moved between countries. Then the ‘phantom’ emails started. It became clear that the contagion was one of human origin with a specific purpose to start the ‘End of Days’, some loony Christian sect decided that Muslims were a perfect target to help start the end of the world and used a biological weapon at the Hajj. It was clear from the email that the group knew what the effects would be and was talking about the dead rising, end of the world as we know it etc. etc. The emails are still being sent out so whoever is responsible they’re still out there.

So now we come to the present day, Africa is mainly a wasteland, as is a lot of Asia and SE Asia. Most of the USA is a free fire zone mainly thanks to petty state politics and the refusal of some governors to realise how serious the problem was. South America is still intact and central America is now a firebreak guarded by the Mercosur Military Command. The MMC now also runs South America with a three year mandate. Australia dealt with its problem quickly and intelligently unfortunately this caused race riots which left parts of Sydney and Melbourne in flames.

And Europe? Well there’s not a lot of Europe left to be honest. In the UK, a new Hadrian’s walls was built by the Scots and a similar undertaking was devised by the Welsh but they didn’t get it up in time. Scotland is now an independent country although still a constitutional monarchy with King William sitting above a single chamber of Parliament in Edinburgh. The first Minister is ironically Gordon Brown. Ireland is once again united although only just. Only France maintains that it has an effective government although as a State it is not much bigger than Vichy France. The French have adopted a walled town strategy which they hope they can retake all land lost to the contagion. As to the rest of Europe well there’s not a lot left and the Russians are fighting a losing battle.

Out east things are better. China has enacted even more draconian measures and a new Great Wall is taking shape. The Koreas are still at each other throats but there are signs that North Korea is about to collapse as it is receiving no outside aid. Then there is Japan, for some reason there were multiple hot spots of the contagion four months ago. Now it is a dead zone.
The lift door opening at out labs floor jolted me from the retrospective. The security zone here was quite exacting we had to submit to thermal cameras checking that we had no fever as well as optical and breath scans, just make sure we were ok. If not the room would be flooded with warm Hydrofluoric acid. Passing through the security zone we entered the lab zone. On our floor there are three labs but only ours has a separate elevator to the ‘storeroom’

The hallway beyond the security zone was an inverted capital T each arm ending in an airlock. Beyond each airlock is a robing room leading to decontamination facilities and the labs themselves. Security cameras cover so nothing is missed. The floors of the robing rooms and the decontamination zone are hidden beneath metal grills. The drains that carry all the decon fluids travel many kilometres to a special lab to make the chemicals safe. God help us if they ever break down.

The labs beyond are temples to biochemistry and microbiology, scanning electron microscopes, chromatographs of various types, mass spectrometers the list is endless all reliquaries to our god of scientific knowledge. Our lab is different though it looks more like a morgue, with dissection tables and cold storage.

Luis in his usual imperious manner pushed past me to enter the lab. He wandered over to his ‘space’ and started putting in the request for the first sample.

It suddenly struck me how we had completely dehumanised the subjects of our research, from the Kevlar bags placed over their hands, feet and heads to calling them euphemistically ‘samples’. And of course there was the constant discussion in the common-room whether or not what we did was an autopsy or vivisection. These sort of conversations were in hushed tones as no-one wanted to be removed from the project. This had happened a few times and being dumped outside the main gates with a suitcase and a few days worth of food and a sidearm was not an ideal way to celebrate the right to free speech.

I set about preparing my tools and after around five minutes the service lift opened up revealing a figure laden gurney. The microphones picked up faint groans coming from the figure. Charcoal grey Kevlar bags enveloped its head, feet and hands to minimise possible contagion transfer. Once I had wondered out loud how many aspects of the containment process that made our job easier had been put together so quickly. Luis (who had worked for the Spanish Army as a medical officer) had looked me straight in the eye and said “Why do you think? Maybe they would look better in orange, yes?”

I quickly dropped the matter.

Snapping back to the present I wheeled my trolley of instruments towards the gurney as Luis moved it to the vertical. The sample (which until now had been still) started to move against its restraints. Luis whistled
“Got a live one here! And tonight’s contestant is Jacques! Jacques comes from the lovely city of Lyons and his main interests are eating and wandering around aimlessly.”
A muffled moan came form the bagged figures head
“What’s that Jacques? Yes? Sorry, your favourite food is brainnnnz. Can you say it? Can you?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the inanity of the situation especially as the bagged sample writhed against its bonds and Luis kept up his faux gameshow host routine. Once I got the sample trolley next to the figure, I had to take every precaution, as we had found that every microgram of a zombie was a possible vector. Luis’ humour also subsided and he became the consummate professional. Two of his former colleagues had become infected due to sloppy technique. He once told me about it after two bottles of Rioja. He’d shot both of them himself before they could become a danger. One of them he’d known since university.

The sampling process took around four hours and by the end what had once been a normal human being was no more than a collection of sample jars and biohazard burn bags.

Sterilisation took another half an hour and by then I was physically exhausted. However there were still the results of the last couple of sample analysis. Trudging back through the decontamination zone I felt a surge of excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I suppose part of the reason was that I’d been working in these labs for so long. I was a researcher at Saar Biosciences S.A. for three years before the emergency. Back then, the valley had been a remote parkland. We held picnics by the river and the fence was a simple chain link affair carrying a small charge to discourage eco-terrorists. We always had armed guards but they simply had pistols. Now we have a triple layer fence filled with antipersonnel mines with a 50 meter killzone in front, covered by claymore mines. Instead of basic security guards, soldiers of the Swiss army now guard the perimeter, backed up by a couple of wheeled APC’s with auto-cannons and three attack ‘copters. The parkland is now farmland to feed the appetite of the guards and the researchers.

I suppose at the start I’d resented the changes, at the rudeness of the world invading our little slice of paradise. But then we were one of the few labs who had the right balance of facilities especially after USAMRID and the CDC in the USA were overrun (Luis had been working on secondment at USAMRID at the time), and we had a defensible position. But reality sort of rolled over my objections.
Getting back into our offices I noticed that Cecily the English researcher was there. I found her to be a breath of fresh air in here. She refused to throwaway her Goth paraphernalia much to the disgust of some of the more staid researchers. She along with two French researchers Alex and Jean-Pierre were our main biowarfare specialists. We were never told where the Frenchmen came from, but we knew that Cecily had worked at Porton Down.

‘Good afternoon gentlemen I thought I could smell the delicate odour of l’eau de zombie wafting down the corridor!”
“That’s the problem with you stay at home types, not willing to get your hands dirty”
Sniped back Luis.
“A girl like me has to be careful not to get dishpan hands!” Cecily shot back.
Luis humphed and wandered over to his desk, and Cecily’s face broke into a wide smile.
“Ignore him Cecily, he’s not had his normal five cups of coffee today”
A couple of choice words in Spanish floated over from Luis desk.
“Oh he’s fine, just needs the hand of a good woman!”
Feeling awkward as usual I hesitated
“ yes, so what news from your dredging of the bug labs?”
“Still nothing, but there’s a chance we may get a data upload from Beijing about some ‘old’ research later on today so there may be something there”
“Let’s hope eh?” I said and moved over to my desk. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Cecily still looking over at me, silence then fell on the office as we began going over the data from the latest set of sampling

The week progressed slowly as we processed the samples and the other labs did their work as well. By the end each sample was nothing more than a pile of ashes, which was sealed up and placed in a containment area down well below the main complex. Friday was something to look forward too as the management gave us something to drink in the common room.

For the last day or so something had been bothering me. I had been looking at the results that had been coming in from the fresh samples and finally it looked like we were getting close to identifying the contagion. Marcus’ team in lab 2 had isolated a prion they had not seen before and with the goodly amount of samples from Lyon being of various stages of infection (in one case the sample was thought to be a possible patient zero for his area) it was possible to see a rapid mutation in the prion which could relate to the shorter time taken for symptoms to appear compared with six months ago. But something about the shape and makeup of the prion rang a bell with me.

It was Friday afternoon when it all fell into place and everything else started to fall apart.

I was in the process of cutting up the last sample. This one was the poorest in condition and we had left it until last for this reason. Processing had taken little time and after the judicious use of a cold forged chisel (after removed the head bag), we started to cut up the now stilled corpse. Well I say ‘we’ Luis always managed to suddenly ‘need’ to do something important just as it came to fire up the rotary saw. This time it was reporting a dodgy centrifuge.

As Luis wandered over to the computer I started to cut into the corpses left knee, but only remembering to flick down the lexan guard as the disc was halfway into the leg. As the shield locked into place I felt a sharp pain in my right arm. Glancing at the suit it looked intact so I continued on. When I was scrubbing down I found a small piece of bone partially imbedded in my forearm. Quickly I pulled it out and scrubbed at the wound. As there was no blood I vainly hoped that there had been no contamination.

My mind still was working furiously at the prion issue and then it hit me! I had seen the prion before, or at least something very similar and it was here in this lab complex!

Dressing quickly, I headed up to office leaving Luis trailing behind. I tried to move as fast as possible without running so as not to alert the people viewing the security camera feed. My PC was still on, so it took just a moment to log back on.

I had one advantage that almost none of the other researchers had. Having worked here I had access to the company’s old project files. I quickly transferred the prion data recovered from the Lyon samples and compared it with one particular structure. The structure was very much the same, and there, there on the upper left side was the sequence I’d worked on myself.

I caught a glimpse of Luis just about to swipe himself in, so I brought up another analysis I had been working on.
“What made you shoot off?” he asked
“Thought I had an idea, but I was wrong, again! So back to the drawing board, how is the centrifuge going?”
“Maintenance say they’ll get on in tomorrow, I was thinking of going back over the USAMRID databases, as that thing looks man-made to me, in fact it reeks of it.”
“Do you think so?” I asked carefully trying not to let my voice waver.
“Yes but it’s time for drinks so lets get up there before the peons drink the good stuff.”
So saying he turned on his heel, and walked out of the office, leaving me behind for a moment. I switched back to the old research file, switched off the monitor and unplugged my security thumbdrive Ten I got up and followed Luis up to the common room.


When we arrived at the common room it looked like we were the last ones to arrive. Both Luis and I checked our watches, no in fact we were actually early. We looked at each other in askance as to what was the fuss? I looked around and noticed that all the research staff were there including management and the officers of the external and internal security teams. Herr Schmidt who was the Project Director noticed our arrival and coughed the room fell into silence.

“Today colleagues we have achieved what no other facility has done since the emergency begun. We have isolated the causes of the infection which has so troubled the world” he nodded to his PA who brought up an image of the Prion in question.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Dr Mobutu and his team have determined this afternoon beyond reasonable doubt that this is our enemy, and now the project must change. We have to find a cure or at least a countermeasure to this” he waved his hand in the general direction of the image. He looked over to his PA who nodded before he started speaking again.
“To celebrate we have arranged for some champagne and a few other luxuries”

I could hear corks popping and the smell of food. Almost as a single entity we all moved to the tables where the support staff had laid on canapés and opened a number of bottles of Veuve Cliquot. After helping myself I stood next to Luis and looked for three people, all of whom had worked on the same research team as I whilst at Saar Biosciences. I was unsurprised to see them huddled together, casting worried looks at the image on the screen. That only helped confirm my suspicions.
“I wonder how they managed to confirm ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that this is the culprit?” asked Luis
“I don’t know, some form of animal test?” I replied softly
“Unlikely, but if so what species have been found to be infected”
Cecily wandered over to us holding two glasses in her hands, one of which was almost finished. As she reached up she knocked back the almost empty glass and placed it on the floor, luckily it was quickly retrieved by a member of the support staff.
“Good evening gentlemen, how are you both?” asked Cecily smothering a giggle
“At a guess that wasn’t your first glass?” asked Luis. “You need to be careful, around here they don’t seem to like people abusing the grape”
“Luis, you can be such an old woman sometimes” chided Cecily
“Anyway, I’m celebrating. My two colleagues have been recalled, so at last I get to work without them poking their noses around”

I looked at her over the rim of my glass
“I thought you worked well as a team?”
“Not really, I think they were only there to make sure it wasn’t some bug designed in a French lab! They must have found out about Marcus’ results, realised their government was off the hook and were happy to flee the coup”.

Luis looked at her speculatively
“Interesting, you two love birds stay here and converse, I’m going to pump our savior, Marcus for details, Ciao” so saying he wandered off into the crowd.

I laughed in an embarrassed manner “Sorry about Luis, he says stuff just to get a reaction”
“Oh I don’t mind him at all” Cecily replied, her voice sounded husky and I noticed that she was standing quite close to me.
“Luis has known that I fancy you, for a while now, you’ve probably noticed how he tries to leave us alone together”

Realisation dawned on me as several recent incidents clicked into place
“Oh I never realised” I said quite lamely
“I know’ she replied archly “But I ‘m sure you can make it up somehow!”
I swallowed too much champagne and coughed drawing the gaze of a couple of co-workers, as I leant over she quickly kissed me in the ear, darting her tongue around it in a sensual manner. As she did this I fancied I could almost sense the blood coursing through her head.
“Lets say our goodbyes, and then we’ll see about you making your amends” said Cecily taking my free hand and leading me into the pack.


I found myself sitting at a restaurant, it looked familiar, but I seemed to be the only one there. In front of me was a dish of steak tartare and a full glass of what looked to be a fine Burgandy. The walls where white but all the artworks seemed to be scenes of something Hieronymus Bosch would describe, but utilising modern styles. I went to the tartare with a gusto and drank deeply of the wine which was warm, thick and rich.

“Would sir like some more?”

I looked round and there was Luis dressed as a waiter. The scene changed and there was Luis preparing more mince for the tartare but there was a human leg in the mincer and he was pouring blood from a skulls mouth
His face took on a demonic visage.

“Come on, you know you want more of this fine cuisine!”
Then there was a dull pounding on the door and the windows
Luis suddenly was right beside me whispering sibilantly into my ear
“They are calling to you, why don’t you go out and join them?”
Without a thought I stood up stiffly and walked in an ungainly manner towards the door although in my mind I screamed “Stop..I didn’t want to go out”, not to face what I knew I was!
Luis was at the door, and he bowed and gestured me to leave as he opened the door…. suddenly Zombies were everywhere but they were not attacking me, thought they did start to attack three men hung on hooks in the middle of the room (why did I notice them before?)
I could see the suspended mens faces. They were the men I had worked with on the old project! They screamed in pain as they were slowly devoured…….

Things changed again, now Cecily was standing before me in a Gothy style dress complete with a bustier, stockings and spike heeled boots. Her clothes were tattered and he skin had an unhealthy caste.
She held out her arms to me
“Kiss me Simon” she said in a corpselike whisper, opening her mouth but instead of her tongue there was just a mass of maggots writhing around…..

…I woke up sweating with a scream on the edge of my tongue. Cecily leg that was draped over me stopped me from sitting upright.
“What’s wrong?” she said sleepily
“Just a nightmare” I said after a moment to collect my thoughts.
“hmmm’ she languidly stroked my forehead “bad dream gone?”

A few minutes later Cecily spoke again
“Look, I know this is our first night together but can I tell you a secret?”
I dreaded to think what she was going to say, especially after discovering where some of her piercings were in the previous few hours!
She paused again obviously gaining her own courage.
“Okay, I have this fantasy about being eaten alive by one of them whilst having sex”
“What? Are you having a joke?”
“No, now I know it’s strange but it’s a fantasy but after you mentioned you had a nightmare, I thought maybe we should share, you know?”
“Well it is weird don’t you think?”
“I’m sure you’ll enjoy it though..”
I couldn’t argue especially as her hand started to caress my body and she whispered to me her instructions. I could again feel that I could sense the blood flowing through her body and her heart started to sound like a drum beating out a hypnotic cadence.

It was a short while later that the scene was set
“Now bite me, but not too much.” I obeyed and I could feeling her writhe in pleasure but then I took a harder bite breaking her skin
“Simon that hurt!”
Her words then meant little to me as I felt the need, the urge to taste more, and her writhings became those of pain not pleasure, and her voice raised in volume and pitch, panicking not sighing. Her legs thumped against the bed until they stilled and I fed, not caring about my hunger.

I sensed the door to my room opening and I turned around to this next source of warm flesh and blood….